Touring Tips and Tales From My Military Band Days

My name is Larry Weintraub, I played tenor sax, clarinet, bari sax, alto sax and bass clarinet with Army, Navy and civilian bands. Today I will be talking about touring with military bands both stateside and overseas.

Things to do as a reed player before you leave

  • If there is any doubt of how your horn(s) are playing take them to your repair tech. When your horns are ready, go to the shop and really test them out. Once you are in some 3rd world country if something goes wrong you are stuck with a horn that is not 100%.
  • Prepare your reeds, bring plenty of reeds with you. Be aware that if you are going to a higher altitude like Denver, CO you may need to bring some softer reeds with you.
  • If possible use an Anvil Case for your horns. Otherwise bring your horn on the plane.
  • Make sure your Passport and Visa, if needed are in order.
  • Give all of your parts to the librarian. Make photo copies if you really need to shed a part.
  • Make sure your bills are paid before you leave. Have your significant other pay any incoming bills.
  • Make sure you bring the correct clothes whether it is a military uniform or a tuxedo for civilian bands. Bring enough changes of uniform parts so that you will not get stuck with dirty uniforms. This includes enough socks, t-shirts, belt buckles, belts and insignia. Bring off duty clothes for sightseeing etc. Do not bring t-shirts or clothes with logos that can be considered offensive. Dress conservative not flashy. Ladies, do not wear really short skirts or shorts. Maybe an inch or two above the knee.
  • Do not forget a hand held toothbrush, comb, brush, shampoo, soap in a plastic box, toilet paper and any other toilet items you may need.

Fun Stuff, Shots and Meds

  • Make sure your shots are up to date. For travel to 3rd World countries you will be taking anti malaria pills before you leave. You may need the plague shot.
  • In 3rd World countries Do Not Drink the local water. Buy bottled water. Do not brush your teeth with the tap water. I used my bottled water for that. Showering is fine, just do not swallow the water. Seek out the American Club. This is a great place to exchange money and buy bottled water. These clubs are usually found in either the capital city or other major cities.
  • A word of caution, AIDS is rampant all over Africa and in many third-world countries. Do not partake in sexual activity with the locals while in country.

Traveling to Ireland, tis a country of a different color, tis green

“In Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty.” – from the lyrics to the Dublin anthem, Molly Malone

Ireland was a really great Navy Band tour. It’s a 6 hour flight East from Norfolk, VA, so like Africa you have to make up for the jet lag. We were always allowed to catch up on our sleep.

One thing about both the Army and Navy Bands I was in, your off duty time is your own. Use it to explore the area, taste the local food and drink the local beer. We never rehearsed while on tour, all the music and sound system jinks were taken care of before we left. Everything in Ireland was safe. The people are very friendly and they love Yanks as they call us.

My Navy Band flew into Dublin, landing at 10 pm. It was still light out as ’twas summertime. We went to the local Army base in Dublin and got settled into one of their barracks. Ireland is a meat and potatoes country so it suited me fine.

We basically covered the whole country. We played in St. Stephens Green in Dublin, a concert venue in Wexford then traveled to Shannon. Whilst in Shannon we played at the Shannon Airport. Then it was off to Galeway. There we played a concert at an outdoor venue. By the way – most of our concerts were with the Jazz Ensemble and Rock Band. We did take some extra players to play patriotic music and marches.

While in Ireland we played a steel deck party in the hangar bay of the USS JFK. The Jazz Ensemble traded sets with the 1st Irish Army Band and the Corrs, a Irish group that mixes traditional Irish music with contemporary music. Both groups played really well.

Myself and two other lads snuck the barracks NCO (non-commissioned officer), Patty Fagan and his son onto the ferry and the JFK. We told him to follow our bus to the pier. There we gave them some gear to carry onboard. If asked we told them to say they were with the Navy Band. It worked, they had a grand time. Patty’s son came back with all kinds of ribbons and a khaki pilots hat.

Other places we went to were, Trinidad, Halifax, NS for the International Tattoo. There I met a very nice Estonian gymnast who was in the Tattoo also. We went all up and down the East Coast from Key West to New York City for Fleet Week and other events. Mostly all fun. In 2000 for Op Sail 2000 the US Govt put both the Norfolk and Washington DC Navy Bands in the Waldorf Astoria. Rough duty, but hey, someone has to do it. Being a Musical Ambassador for America certainly had it’s high points and fun times.

In the Army we traveled all over Colorado, N & S Dakota, Mt. Rushmore, Wyoming, Minnesota and Iowa. My Army big band was the featured band at Glenn Millers hometown of Clarinda, Iowa. Really nice trip complete with an A & W Root Beer Drive-In with car hops.

Stay safe, play well and keep your reeds slightly wet at all times. ‘Tis plenty of sea stories for later lads and lasses…